Henry Cram and Justin Cram work for KCET and love burgers. This is their story.
All this week, Eagle Rock's The Oinkster will be commemorating America's favorite burgers in a week long salute. The restaurant will pay homage to five of America's greatest burger franchises by imitating their standards, each on a featured night. And we'll be there every night to taste The Oinkster's creations, followed immediately by their inspiration.
Last night's honoree was the White Castle slider. Having never actually tried a White Castle burger we felt a bit out of our element. We know that Harold and Kumar like them and that they can be eaten by the dozen. We also know you can buy them in the freezer section of most major supermarkets. They are known for thin patties and thick spongy bread. Even so, the line for the sliders at The Oinkster last night was a half-hour deep.
Two "Red Castle" sliders (probably named for the red sloping rooftop of The Oinkster) for $5.
I peeked inside the burger as it arrived at our table: Mayonnaise, slice of cheese, smear of tiny diced onions, a nice thick, wavy-cut pickle chip, and a plump, square-ish beef patty. All of this fit nicely into the fluffy bun which fit perfectly into the palm of our hands -- no mustard, no ketchup. We were assured the burgers were steamed (White Castle burgers are known for being steamed).
We entered a realm of burger-ly delight as we chowed down, with the mayo, diced onion and American cheese flavors dominating. The meat was thoroughly cooked yet supple. We easily devoured the sliders and got back to our car to head to the freezer section of the nearest grocery store (in this case, Von's).
A six pack of White Castle sliders (Frozen) $4.99.
With the taste of The Oinkster's Red Castle Burger lingering on my breath, I asked the cashier if he had ever eaten a White Castle burger before. He had not, but said they were very popular.
At home we examined the box's instructions which offered two cooking methods: microwave and conventional oven. We did both. The frozen pucks clanked against a ceramic plate as we tossed two of them into the microwave, and awaited burger ... nirvana?
60 seconds later: The microwaved burger resembled Play-Doh in texture. The patty was similar in appearance to a carpet sample. The bottom bun was stiff and hot and trying to cut it in half without smooshing it was impossible. Upon biting into it, though, I recognized the flavor as that of the sliders we had just tasted at The Oinkster: the tangy mayonnaise, the finely diced onions, the sweet bun. However, I also noticed the limp texture of the meat; and the cheese had liquified and lost all cheesiness. This was far from enjoyable.
The oven/steam method was a vast improvement over the microwaved version, but there was a 30 minute difference in prep time and we had to fashion a broiling pan out of a steamer insert and a shallow pot. It was worth it though. My compatriot disagreed, but for me the ingredients really came back to life. I tasted cheese and I didn't strongly dislike that patty. The onions tasted like onions. This, I felt, was acceptable. One thing that you can't get in the frozen version, though, is the pickle.
The Oinkster nailed the flavor. They really payed homage to an American classic but made it with love and respect, something I felt was lacking in the frozen burgers. I'll tell you one thing, The Red Castle Burger saved me from hating White Castle. Had I only experienced the frozen variety I would easily have sworn them off forever.
The Winner: The Oinkster, without question.
The 2 x 4, Piggy Style, in the fashion of the Double Double, Animal Style, from In n' Out.
The Northeast Bacon Cheeseburger, in the fashion of the Western Bacon Cheeseburger, from Carl's Jr.
The Sourdough Josh, after the Sourdough Jack, from Jack in the Box
The Big Max, after the Big Mac, from McDonald's
Words by Henry, photos by Justin.
2005 Colorado Blvd., 323-255-6465